Short-tailed Albatross

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Phoebastria albatrus

Short-tailed Albatross

The Short-tailed Albatross is the rarest albatross seen in the north Pacific Ocean waters. It is an endangered seabird whose nesting sites were relocated some years ago. Today, there is a small nesting colony that exists on some of the islands off of Japan.

Nests on volcanic islands with some vegetation including Miscanthus sinensis (family Poaceae) and Chrysanthemum pacificum (family Asteraceae). It also nests on sloping grassy terraces on islands.

Like all albatrosses, it is marine and pelagic.

The adults are the only albatross with white back in North Pacific. They have white upperparts except for the buffy-yellow wash on head and neck, more conspicuous on the nape.

The upperwing is black with white areas, one from scapulars and the other on inner secondary coverts, both connected by variable white area over the lesser coverts. The tail is black with a white base.

The underwing is mainly white, surrounded by a narrow black margin. The underparts are white.

The bill is pale pink with pale blue tip, with the base surrounded by narrow black line. Eyes are blackish-brown. Legs and feet are pale blue-gray or gray, with variable amount of pink on the webs, toes and tarsus.

Males and females are similar.

Juveniles are blackish-brown overall, with small white areas below the eyes and around the large, pale bill, and mainly on the chin.

The Short-tailed albatross is a medium-sized albatross, measuring about 33 to 37 inches in length, with a wingspan of 85 to 91 inches 33 to 37 inches and weighs about 4.3 to 8.5 kilograms.

On their breeding grounds, they give a groaning call, but they are generally silent off the breeding grounds.

Feeds mostly on squid, but will also feed on fish, shrimp and other crustaceans, and occasionally on the refuse and waste from ships.

Breeding habitat is now reduced to just a pair of Japanese Islands (Torishima and Minami-kojima), and recent nesting attempts on Midway Island in the Hawaiian Island chain. Outside of the breeding season, they are found in open ocean in the Pacific.

Found in North Pacific Ocean and breeds on Torishima Island, off Southeastern Japan, and on two of the Senkaku Islands. It has occasionally bred on Midway Atoll.

This species formerly bred in large numbers in the Western North Pacific, on islands south to the main island of Japan.

It forages across the temperate and subarctic North Pacific waters, and may occur in the Gulf of Alaska, along the Aleutian Islands and in the Bering Sea after the breeding season.

The Short-tailed Albatross is a colonial nester. Their nest is made with earth and pieces of vegetation, and the cup is lined with grass. It is placed on the ground, on grassy slopes.

The female lays a single, large egg each year or every other year. Both adults incubate for 65 days. 


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